A reform-minded agenda within the conservative party is making headlines heading into the 2014 midterms and 2016 presidential election.
"Reformicons," as the movement's leaders are called, are hoping to refocus the rhetoric and policies of American conservatives back on issues they argue are more in tune with the party's base.
Coming out of the recession, much of the Republican policy agenda was no longer suited to its political base, Sam Tanenhaus, writer-at-large for The New York Times, told The Daily Circuit. A struggling middle class was not going to be helped by policies freeing up money at the very top of the income ladder.
Republicans started to consider, "how do we think instead about redesigning our institutions to meet these new challenges," added Ross Douthat, a New York Times columnist.
This means moving toward center on several key issues, notably higher education and tax relief for working families. And it means admitting the principle of universal health coverage is here to stay.
There are a lot of establishment Republicans who want to crush the Tea Party and go back to business as usual, Douthat said, but that's not going to work. At this point, he said, any reform agenda has to be populist to succeed.
He explained in more detail in a blog post last year:
If reform conservatives were suddenly put in charge of the Congressional G.O.P.'s legislative agenda, the party would immediately advance Robert Stein's plan for family-friendly tax reform and champion some version of James Capretta's proposed replacement for Obamacare. It would continue to push hard for Paul Ryan's entitlement reforms, while setting more realistic targets for discretionary spending than his budget blueprints have done to date. It would try to revise the immigration reform bill along the lines suggested by Levin here, and failing that would probably push a more modest increase in high-skilled immigration, paired with more enforcement mechanisms, as an alternative to the comprehensive approach. It would become notably more sympathetic to the Brown-Vitter banking overhaul and to Derek Khanna-style proposals for copyright reform. And it would stop attacking Ben Bernanke for his supposed dovishness and recognize that if anything monetary policy has probably been too tight. ...
It wouldn't embrace (or re-embrace) a cap-and-trade bill, or any sweeping regulatory response to climate change. (The influence of Jim Manzi is strong here.) It wouldn't endorse further tax increases -- or not unless something like the Wyden-Ryan Medicare plan was actually on the table. It would remain skeptical of many of the major features of Obamanomics -- the design of the stimulus bill, the individual mandate, forays into industrial policy. It would be reality-based regarding the likely outcome of the gay marriage debate and non-Akinist on abortion, but it wouldn't try to jettison social conservatives or sideline their concerns; instead, it would mostly work to broaden the pro-family message into the realm of economic policy. And it wouldn't make immigration reform central to the party's "rebranding" effort.
Is there room for reformism in today's conservative party? Leave your comments below.